The Organic Architecture Guild

A Sustainability Union


“The House Above the Morning Clouds” - Lautner Associates-Helena Arahuete (2003)

The Clients requested a house that would make them feel like they live on top of the world and inspires them to think great thoughts. They wanted to see all of the 360 degree view from everywhere in the main floor and they needed a 50 foot long lap pool to be used daily, throughout the year.

The very large site includes the two highest peaks in Solano County, with views to the Sierra Nevada, the Wine Country and a distant view to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Clients wanted the house to be on top of one of the peaks, but they agreed on recessing it into the hill, to conceal it from the view from the distant roads below.

The main floor is mostly one large space with a few 7 foot high partitions for privacy of the master bedroom and baths. The exterior walls are frame-less glass, hanging-sliding across the indoor-outdoor swimming pool. The roof sections are alternately high and low, but they all slope up at the outside perimeter, to capture and pull the views toward the center of the house. The lower floor is mostly recessed into the hill; it opens into a two story high central garden with a pond and a fountain, which can be seen from both floors.

“Brittlebush”, Simón De Agüero

"Brittlebush" By Simón De Agüero, Shelter at Taliesin West
Zen Garden with Saskia Jorda Art Installation

 “Brittlebush”, Simón De Agüero

Brittlebush is a design-build experimental dwelling project by Simón De Agüero, a recent graduate of Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. De Agüero envisioned the design to be an open-air living space with protective roof and walls for the sleeping area, to be used during temperate weather. Phillip Drew, in his book New Tent Architecture, talks about the tent as an aspect of architecture that brings the inhabitant closer to the earth than conventional buildings. Likewise, De Agüero’s choice for the open air was to embrace the desert experience in its fullest. To be inspired by nature throughout the design process is a foundational principle of the project.

Inspiration from nature is a principle of Organic Architecture that comes to mind when thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright.  How a building is situated in its natural environment is an essential point of this consideration. A pre-existing cement slab was the starting point of this project. By using this existing slab as the staging site, damage to the surrounding desert was minimized. De Agüero envisioned a synthesis of the modern tent and organic approach to architecture.

A particularly unique aspect of the design is a steel structure that frames three-inch rammed-earth walls surrounding a patio, fireplace, and bed. The structure’s masts and anchors can adaptively accommodate a fabric roof membrane of either shade-cloth or vinyl. The bed platform is situated above a fireplace for passive winter heating. This design concept includes an indoor-outdoor terrace that works equally well for drinks with friends or for sitting down and reading a book. The social patio has three chairs and a meditative Zen garden, all designed to integrate with the larger whole. Approximately 90% of the steel in the project was salvaged from the school scrap yard; 100% of the earth for the walls was from the school property; 100% of the wood used for the formwork was salvaged from onsite renovation waste.

De Agüero is early in his career in architecture. Brittlebush is an experiment in materials, asking its resident to question the boundaries between themselves and nature. Like other desert dwellings at Taliesin West, Brittlebush is a place to contemplate the range of architectural needs with a corporal experience. Immediately five minutes away from Taliesin West is the greater metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona. What does it mean to dwell in this growing, mechanized civilization and yet remain close to the desert? This question was deep in Simón De Agüero’s mind throughout the development of the project.

The structure can be visited on the student-led Taliesin West Desert Shelter Tour on Saturdays at 1:30 pm from mid-November through mid-April.



  • Tenshon (Membrane Fabrication)
  • GaliPacific (Fabric Manufacturer)
  • Saskia Jorda ( Art installation
  • Erik Krautbauer,  Assistant project manager.
  • Taliesin Apprentices and FLLWSA Staff

Scorpion House, Jones Studio, Inc.

Scorpion House, Jones Studio, Inc
Scorpion House: Jones Studio, Inc. Completed: January 2002
Scorpion House, Jones Studio Inc, 2002
Scorpion House: Jones Studio, Inc.
Scorpion House, Jones Studio, Inc
Scorpion House: Jones Studio, Inc.  Completed: January 2002

Mies Van der Rohe once said: “I see no reason to invent a new architecture every Monday morning,”The great Midwestern architect, Bruce Goff, responded: “I have to invent a new architecture each time for each client, whether its Monday morning or not!”

Project Description

The site is in far North Scottsdale, Arizona, within a gated community designed around a golf course. The neighborhood strongly discourages modern architecture. Most of the houses in the community are faux-mission, faux-tuscan, or faux-contemporary, placed on top of pristine, beautiful Sonoran desert. Previously untouched, the site is in high

Sonoran desert with a significant slope, arroyo, boulders, and desert landscape. Careful consideration for views, heat gain mitigation, and maintaining privacy determined a radial house plan that would focus on the Natural Landscape.

The team was committed to the ideals of sustainable building: exemplifying the principles of conservation and encouraging the application of those principles in our daily lives; minimizing resource degradation and consumption; fostering awareness in visitors, designers, and developers by modeling and teaching a new ethos; and a non-hierarchal way of building where all elements are considered equally important – especially as they relate to harmonious integration within the ecosystem.

Although the entry sequence straddles a small, yet significant canyon, the resulting upper landing bridge allows the existing drainage pattern to continue undisturbed.  The beautiful arroyo view is only revealed after stair ascension and passage through the creature’s concrete backbone. Hillside contours, boulder field, distant views, and stands of old saguaro, shape the cast-in-place concrete ledge. Interlocking the curvilinear retaining walls, a protective shell of oxidized titanium plates integrate the “scorpion”

forms with desert shadow. An inverted conical shape roof unifies the continuous interior, defends against a western solar exposure and responds to the incline of the land. Multiple center points are subordinate to the radial joint grid generated by the hemispherical pool.  Program elements are directed to, across, and beyond the seemingly suspended disk of blue water leaking through a coping sieve of two hundred and fifty four stainless steel nipples that leads water to a collection basin below.The insect’s harmless stinger tail places the detached two bedroom house in the shade of a crescent shaped clearing. 

Vertical rock faces define an intimate outdoor private space. Scorpion House explores new technologies and their architectural applications.  The base of the house is a series of curving cast-in-place concrete retaining walls.  The inverted conical shape roof and shapely upper wall forms are clad in titanium zinc.Zinc was chosen due to its ability to meet a variety of functions.  It is highly adaptable for use on both roof and walls, while elegantly accommodating difficult geometries.  This in turn helped to reduce the number of types of materials used in the project, which simplified the construction process.  The panels’ lightweight allowed for soaring structure and roof planes.  The minimal weight of the cladding thus reduces the amount of structure needed to support it, which helps reduce costs.  Zinc’s thermal

properties are such that the metal releases heat quickly.  This is critical in building responsibly in a desert environment where differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures can be used to the owners benefit by reducing cooling loads.  This rich, velvety material was perfect for enveloping the complex shapes of the house in a skin tough enough to protect the interior from the blistering heat of the desert.  The dark metal panels will gracefully endure for many years to come, require no maintenance, improve with age as they patina, and help the house to gracefully blend into the desert shadows.  

Architecture: Eddie Jones, Neal Jones, Rob Viergutz, Maria Salenger

Engineering: J.T. Engineering (Structural), Otterbein Engineering (MPE), Tony Woo (Electrical), Graham Engineering (Civil) Contractor: Construction Zone

Traditional Dwellings of the World


The most basic form of shelter is the cave. They were advantageous as a found form of shelter, yet they could be expanded to meet changing human needs, by linking, extending or branching off. Providing natural shelter and warmth, the cave is also a protective shelter from invaders, animals and other predators and could be concealed easily by covering the entrance.

Cones of Cappadocia, Central Anatolia, Turkey

This Strange natural and man made landscape of houses, churches, farms, granaries and monasteries has evolved from generations, formed from Volcanic Tufa Stone, an ancient compacted dust from the volcano Erciyes. It is very soft and has formed minarets from years of erosion, as well as from additional man made help. Inhabitants have carved caves, holes an formed new structures by carving the stone. Once a new surface is exposed it naturally hardens to form a protective layer.


About 250,000 people living along the Niger River Near Timbuktu. Dwellings are either built along the flat rock outcroppings of the plateau's between arable lands, and on cliff debris, directly on the fallen rocks of the high cliffs.  Using clay and water to seal varying spaces, they form cluster dwellings for main living, granaries and outdoor spaces that form yards.  Dwellings reflect religious beliefs that call for the implementation of symbols into everyday life, including their dwellings. Villages are built in pairs to reflect Heaven and Earth.

Tents and Fabrics

The Nomadic Bedouin of the Middle East, North Africa keep their traditional sheep and goat herding and animal husbandry as their main livelihood. Thus the tent is a simple and adaptable system. The main structure is formed by a cable system made of woven goats hair or sheep's wool. These cables act as a type of space frame, with partitions and walls made of thick woolen rugs and curtains. The prosperity of the tribe is reflected in the size of these family compounds and the number of tent poles, peaks and the type of woven decorations embedded in the fabrics. This life style and building method reflects the desert environment, available resources and materials and the mobility of society as a natural system. Today you see many Bedouin villages  that have become sedentary, abandoning their mobile life styel and shanty towns are formed using modern materials such as metal and plastic which do not perform adequately in the desert as do natural, breathable materials that can be layered like clothing on the body. There are several types of typical construction employed by the Berber and Arab Tribes of North Africa from Tunisia and Morocco, but extending all the way into Mongolia and China.

  • The Stretched type, is a light weight, mobile, goat and camel hair tent used by nomads. Fabrics can be folded up and laid over varying types of frames.
  • The Dug Into type is a more sedentary type of earth berming, that uses the earth's mass a form of heat sink and foundation, over which masonry, fabric or other types of shelter can be erected. The troglodyte of Tunisia keep most of there dwelling completely below the surface of the landscape, allowing for minimal to no profiles , useful when sand storms blow through.
  • The Built Up type, is most similar to the western practice of construction.  And of these, there are two basic and contrasting methods.The first is the thin shell dome type. The dome and tunnel and arched or groin vaults are widely used for their engineering simplicity of form, yet complexity of methodology.  Masons can essentially build up their shells without formwork using the structural arch principle. The thin shell
    is made of masonry units and a quick setting mortar. Over the dome or arch is placed a thick layer of reinforced mortar that acts as sheathing and weatherproofing. The second type, employs he earths mass in thick compacted walls to keep out the desert heat and store its built up radiant energy for the nigh time cold. Openings are small and few.


Related to the desert dwellings are similar types of light weight dwellings for the rainier mountainous regions. They are both solid in construction as well as mobile.  Its main frame is an expanding lattice that forms its walls in a semicircle. Strips of wood are fastened together with lashing at diagonals.  Many of these lattice panels can be tied together and then a singular rope or tension ring is fastened along the top. This band then forms the basis for roof  framing poles that tie radially into a compression ring.  Sometimes a central poles is used as additional support. The frame is then covered with varying amounts of pelt, skin, fabric or other types of coverings depending on the climate, season and length of stay.

Early Timber Frame Structures

When Agricultural techniques became more advanced in Europe around 2500BC, early framers needed more space for grain and storage. Size was often limited to the length of trees used as framing members and thus longer, narrow buildings were often formed. Poles were lashed together, and earth was often bermed up along the sides to buttress the roof. Over the purlins, they placed their thatch, turf or bark roofing. Yet this was often a dark, damp and smoky existence in northern climates.  As advancements were made in experience and tool making beyond bronze axes and stone knives, heavier, larger timbers could be used and opening could be made between supports around 700 bc and the emergence of Iron Tools. Timbers could be notched together to fit structurally eliminating the need for lashings. Thus the Pole, The Plank and the Peg became the dominant architectural elements of Europe. Often, stone was employed as a wall base to help resist the lateral thrust of roofs, as building grew in size.

Advanced Design

As cultures became more sophisticated, building was note merely a end game to provide shelter, but could embody and reflect the cultural and religious beliefs and philosophies of a community. In the North of Russia, in Archangel, there are superb examples of craft and architectural spirit.  Shown here is the masterful Orthodox Church of the Transfiguration on an island of Lake Onega. Structures Like this were often built by anonymous peasants with unrelenting skill. However,  this church, built primarily with an ax as the main tool,  was designed and built by Nester, and upon completion, swung the ax into the lake, proclaiming," This ax Shall know no other beauty such as this." It is a symbol of the perfect unity of human skill, strength and will.

Reed Structures

The example here is a reed structure called a  "mudhif" and it is located in Iraq, outside of Baghdad. This technique is 6,000 years old and consists of bundling the giant 20' tall reeds that grow along the Tigris and Euphrates. Each tall bundle acts as a cable, and is stuck into the ground in pairs across from one another in structural bays. Each bundle is then bent over to meet at the apex and forms an arched vault. Reeds are then laid like purlins between the arched ribs to form the sheathing in multiple layers. Since the reeds grow fast and are readily available, the thatching can be replaced often once becoming overly dried out and brittle.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 –1959)

Frank Lloyd Wright was a pioneer in the development of Organic Architecture as he established principles of design and created architecture  that expressed these principles with unwavering strength. His development as an architect spanned 75 years and his rich collection of over 1000 works illustrate that he was not stuck in any one style, but rather his adherence to a sustainable  philosophy allowed him to develop unique projects particular to each own site, client, economics, politics, craft and technology  of the time.  Arguably, Mr. Wright's most organic projects are his two living estates in Scottsdale, Arizona and Spring, Green Wisconsin. Each and every element is a small interconnected part of a larger architecturally complex  idea spanning decades of construction. These two facilities continue to evolve based on educational and architectural principles within a strong community of allied artists. The interconnection of interior and exterior space is integrated with each particular site, climate and history through  a sophisticated use of materials and a composition of geometric and organic forms within the natural landscape. What results is a powerful sense of place.

Marbrisa Residence, John Lautner - Acapulco, Mexico (1973)

Project Architect: HELENA ARAHUETE

The design is inspired in the natural beautiful features of the site, the sense of space, ocean and sky.

The house is in a very steep lot overlooking the Acapulco Bay. The upper floor is a large open terrace surrounded by a cantilevered moat/railing pool that seems to overflow into the ocean below, creating a feeling of infinite space. The moat is wide and deep enough to allow for swimming. The curved, sloping concrete roof is anchored into the hill at one end, then sweeps over the house and the driveway and returns to the hill at the opposite end. The roof is low on the hill side and high on the Bay side, allowing a great view of the sky and the ocean. The enclosed family room and bedrooms are located in the lower floor, facing the Ocean, with a continuous planter/railing along the edge of the decks.

Michael Singer Studio, Memorial Garden
Michael Singer Studio, Memorial Garden
Michael Singer Studio, Memorial Garden
Michael Singer Studio, Memorial Garden
Michael Singer Studio, Memorial Garden
Michael Singer Studio, Memorial Garden
Memorial Garden - Stuttgart, Germany, 1992      

The city of Stuttgart commissioned Michael Singer to design and construct a one-acre garden within a large city park. At the selected site two small streams converge, augmented by three wells designed by Singer. Two distinct spaces define a shaded area and one opening to the light. Water can be heard moving through both spaces in concealed troughs. The water collects in quiet pools, revealing forms and containers below the surface. Materials for the sculptural elements and garden include granite, stone, precast concrete, bronze and indigenous planting. The site is surrounded by an old apple orchard that was restored as part of the garden design. A poem found in 1945 among messages on a ghetto wall in Warsaw and written by Nachman of Breslow, circa 1800, is inscribed in a granite tablet in the memorial garden: "The world in its entirety is a narrow bridge, the main thing is not to be afraid." 

  • Artist: Michael Singer 
  • Design Team: Sterling McMurrin, Luz and Partner 
  • Project Manager: David Hyman 
  • Photography: K.D. Bush 

Michael Singer Studio, West Palm Waterfront
Michael Singer Studio, West Palm Waterfront
Michael Singer Studio, West Palm Waterfront
MSI, West Palm Waterfront,Photo courtesy of Catalfumo Construction
Michael Singer Studio, West Palm Waterfront
West Palm Beach Waterfront Commons - Florida, (2004-2010)

Michael Singer Studio with engineers CH2MHill were selected by the City in 2004 to lead the re-imaging process and design for a cohesive West Palm Beach Downtown Waterfront. The Singer Studio designed the main Commons Park and event spaces, 3 new floating docks, shaded gardens, two community buildings, a continuous waterfront esplanade, 7 specially designed water elements, and a planned estuarine ecological regeneration area. The $30 million park (with $9 million of that coming from Federal, State and Local grants) opened in early 2010, with an estimated 80,000 people attending the grand opening celebration.

The design removed and re-situated the Public Library from the base of Clematis Street, opening waterfront views and access to a large public commons green space with views to Palm Beach Island. Shaded garden pathways along both North and South Clematis Streets have several unique sculptural water gardens. The main central space of the Commons is a

large open area to accommodate major downtown events such as the Palm Beach Boat Show and Sunfest. The Landing and Beach area results from repositioning Flagler Drive to gain more open space, providing better public access to the water’s edge.

The Lake Pavilion is a transparent glass-walled community building that opens onto the Commons with panoramic views of the waterfront. It is the first USGBC LEED Certified City of West Palm Beach building, and includes a 17kW solar photovoltaic system on its roof. The building and its large terraces will be utilized daily as a community center and for special events such as art exhibits, receptions, conferences, and weddings. 

Urban Regeneration: Returning the West Palm Beach Waterfront to Civic Splendor

West Palm Beach has developed into one of the most unique mid-size cities in the United States. The city possesses natural beauty in its environmentally sensitive lands to the west and its urban waterfront to the east running six miles along Flagler Drive. Historically until the 1950’s West Palm Beach had a heavily planted, widely used, easily accessed beach front with boat docking along with recreational and commercial activity on the Intra Coastal Waterway.  This changed in the 1960’s with the dredging and construction of an expanded Flagler Drive. “In many ways our new design recognized the beauty of embracing the past to realize the future” says the project’s lead designer the renowned artist and urban design innovator Michael Singer.  “By reconfiguring Flagler Drive a few hundred feet to the west we have transformed a typical 1960’s auto-centric waterfront into one of the most dynamic new civic places in the country, a contemporary urban regeneration.” Mayor Lois Frankel added “We are fortunate to have artist and designer Michael Singer’s many special elements for our new Waterfront Park.  Michael with the Planners, Engineers and Landscape Designers has provided us with an active and vibrant downtown waterfront that will distinguish our city as a world-class destination. This visionary collaboration has resulted in the design of an incomparable environmentally sensitive waterfront and public gathering place that will become our “City Commons.”

The new West Palm Beach Waterfront encompasses over 1/2 mile and 12.5 acres along the Intra Coastal waterway. This new incomparable civic space revitalizes the City’s downtown and restores the natural beauty of West Palm Beach with a Commons Park, Water Gardens, a Landing, Esplanade, as well as an environmentally innovative Living Dock, two Boat Piers, and South Cove Walkways. After six years of planning, design, and construction the $30 million park (with $9 million of that coming from Federal, State and Local grants) is complete.  The opening celebration is on Saturday February 20, 2010 from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM at the WPB waterfront City Commons (for a complete list of activities please visit

Highlights of the Project

Michael Singer Studio was hired by the City in 2004 and led the re-imaging process and design for a cohesive West Palm Beach Downtown Waterfront including the main Commons Park and event spaces, 3 new floating docks, shaded gardens, two community buildings, a continuous waterfront esplanade, 7 specially designed water elements, and a planned estuarine ecological regeneration area. The project opened in early 2010, with an estimated 80,000 people attending the grand opening celebration.

 West Palm Beach Waterfront Commons 

The design removed and re-situated the Public Library from the base of Clematis Street, opening waterfront views and access to a large public commons green space with views to Palm Beach Island. Shaded garden pathways along both North and South Clematis Streets have six unique sculptural water gardens. The main central space of the Commons is a large open area to accommodate major downtown events such as the Palm Beach Boat Show and Sunfest.

West Palm Beach Waterfront Lake Pavilion  

The Lake Pavilion is a transparent glass-walled community building that opens onto the Commons with panoramic views of the waterfront. It is the first USGBC LEED Certified City of West Palm Beach building, and includes a 17kW solar photovoltaic system on its roof. The building and its large terraces will be utilized daily as a community center and for special events such as art exhibits, receptions, conferences, and weddings.

West Palm Beach Waterfront Living Docks

In 2009 the City of West Palm Beach completed three new docks that allow for boat tie-ups and a water-taxi to encourage visitors into the downtown. One of the docks includes in-water planters containing native mangroves, spartina, and a visible oyster reef set into the dock surface. Perhaps the first of its kind in the nation, this boat dock and promenade designed by Michael Singer Studio actually functions as an environmental living system- filtering water and providing small pockets of habitat set within an estuarine man-made structure.  This element, the first completed of the larger Waterfront project, won a Marine Industries Award in 2009.

West Palm Beach Waterfront Esplanade

The plan and design re-configured Flagler Drive and therefore provides expanded open space that now includes a waterside beach planted with coconut palms, a landing area, and a shaded esplanade along the newly constructed seawall. The new Esplanade consists of several discreet spaces including intimate seating areas and small event ‘rooms’ along a continuous bike and pedestrian path, as well as a unique water feature seating bench.  Trees were saved and moved from other areas of the old library site to create a mature shade canopy.

West Palm Beach Waterfront: South Cove Ecological Regeneration

Michael Singer Studio focused on regenerative environmental opportunities as an important overall design goal for the West Palm Beach Waterfront Commons. Michael Singer Studio worked closely with county and state environmental agencies to help make the West Palm Beach Waterfront project a model of ecological waterfront regeneration in a heavily utilized urban site. Newly constructed tidal gardens and oyster reefs will provide storm water filtration and habitat enhancement to improve the water quality and biodiversity of the estuary. There will be an educational boardwalk from the South Cove walkway edge to the islands. Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management has applied for and received county, state, and federal funding to build the South Cove area.

  • Artist and Lead Designer: Michael Singer
  • Singer Studio Project Manager and Environmental Designer: Jason Bregman
  • Singer Studio Team Designers: Jonathan Fogelson, Husayn El Sharif, Itai Singer
  • Landscape Architecture: Carolyn Pendleton Parker at Sanchez & Maddux Inc. and Connie Roy- Fisher
  • Architect of Record: Steve Boruff Architects
  • Lighting Design: Barbara Horton and Lee Brandt at HLB Lighting
  • City Project Manager: Joan Goldberg
  • Planning: Ana Aponte, Amy Stelly, and Matt Flis from the West Palm Beach City Planning Department and the Thompson Design Group
  • Construction: Catalfumo Construction, Whiting Turner and Technomarine (Living Docks), Macon Construction (Flagler Drive), Wesco (fountains)
  • Design Criteria Phase Project Lead and Initial Site Engineering: CH2M Hill

Walking Suface, Michael Singer Studio
Office Environment, Michael Singer Studio
Courtyard Environment, Michael Singer Studio, 1999
Courtyard Environment, Michael Singer Studio,1999

Alterra Institute for Environmental Research - IBN-DLO Wageningen, Netherlands, 1999  

 IBN-DLO Wageningen, Netherlands, 1999  The Alterra Institute and the Dutch government invited Michael Singer to collaborate on the design of the exterior and interior gardens for its new headquarters in Wageningen. Singer worked closely with architect Behnisch and Partner and landscape architect Copijn Tuin en Landschaps Architecten on this state of the art "green" building. The gardens function as the "lungs and kidneys" of the building, cleaning air and gray water as well as providing comfortable climate control without air-conditioning. Water is first diverted to an outdoor constructed wetland and pond. From that point it is piped into the first atrium garden pool next to the building's library. This pool contains fish and plantings that absorb toxins. From the library pool the water is sent to the second atrium water feature for its final cleaning. This pool has a shallow-patterned concrete plate with water plants growing on its surface. The water drips into a deep cistern for storage and recycling in the building's irrigation system. Singer's design also provides research and experimentation sites, within the garden, for some of the environmental scientists working for the institute.

  • Artist: Michael Singer
  • Design Team: Ken Radtkey and Brook Muller 
  • Project Manager: David Loomis
  • Builders: Craig Maldonado, Matt Anders, Dennis Callahan, and David Hyman
  • Architect: Behnisch and Partner
  • Landscape Architect: Copijn Tuin en Landschaps Architecten
  • Netherlands Representative: Etienne Schoenmackers
  • Photography: Edwin Walwisch and Michael Singer

Ajith Rao: Turbine Integration Project
Ajith Rao: Turbine Integration Project

Ajith Rao Integration Design

The components are essentially an aerodynamically formed building envelope, with attached small scale wind turbines. The concept is based on the principles of the Wind Amplified Rotor Platform (WARP) System, developed by ENECO Texas LLC. The WARP utilizes horizontal saddle shaped geometries that channel airflow onto small wind turbines attached at the troughs. These principles can be integrated within envelope designs for the purpose of passively amplifying air flows. The shape amplifies the wind to up to twice the ambient speed, resulting in substantial increases in the amount of energy generated from the turbines.

Adaptive Generations, By Symbiosis, 2010
Adaptive Generations, Symbiosis, 2010
Water Flow Diagram
Thermal Conditioning Systems

 Adaptive Generations - Symbiosis

  • Project Title : Adaptive Generations
  • Location : New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Schematic Designer : Symbiosis
  • Construction Budget : $100,000 limit
  • Project Size : 880 sf
  • Project Program : Sustainable, affordable housing units for senior citizens
  • Green Rankings : LEED Platinum
  • Awards : 2nd place, South Florida 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition : Small Green Affordable
  • Operational Cost Savings : 60% energy cost savings from passive/mixed use thermal conditioning strategies
  • Sustaining Water : 100% of project water to be treated and infiltrated on site
  • Communal Connections : Generates enough fruits and vegetables for 13 people annually

Project Description :

The adaptive generations module engages sustainability as the development of symbiotic relationships between 3 varying ecologies : economic, social/community, and natural ecologies. On-going research demonstrates that optimizing a project to one of these ecologies has the potential to provide benefits in relation to the other ecologies as well. For example, planting vegetated swales and rain gardens increases local biodiversity and habitat, while utilizing these systems for greywater filtration and irrigation reduces city storm water overflow and infrastructure costs, as well as occupant water costs. Due to the strict budget and small scale of the project, the economic efficiencies of the commercial greenhouse were engaged, utilizing cost effective agricultural shade fabric and polycarbonate technologies to reduce active thermal conditioning by 40-55% in the summer and 8-20% in the winter. Innovative passive thermal conditioning strategies were generated through thermal analysis and computational fluid dynamics modelling. These strategies extend the duration throughout the year that occupants can avoid the use of energy intensive air conditioning while being thermally comfortable. This system allows occupants to become more aware of and engaged with their local climate and environment, through the development of thermal gradient spaces, operable windows, manually adjustable shade fabrics, etc., wherein the mechanical system is integrated with the architecture. One example is the nature of the exposed interior natural ventilation ducts, which function as an aesthetic component of the building design, while also serving as building infrastructure, allowing for user controlled interior air movement, diffuse lighting through optional embedded lighting, and increased natural ventilation for occupants. The

developed mixed mode thermal conditioning strategies allow the building to be open to the exterior more frequently throughout the year, increases interior fresh air quantities, and allows occupants more control over their thermal environment through a variety of user controlled thermal conditioning systems, thereby increasing thermal comfort while significantly reducing energy costs.

The developed solution functions as an asset to the community. For instance, the neighboring buildings’ energy use is reduced by 5-15% in the summer due to the provision of shade the module provides on neighboring buildings. The geometry of the module and the designed wind wall channels wind between the buildings, increasing occupants of both buildings’ ability to utilize natural ventilation throughout the summer. Elderly residents, who are typically detached and segregated from communities once they retire in senior citizen communities and retirement homes, can enjoy an array of benefits from this concept. Large porch spaces, shaded ground levels, and potentially community gardens provide opportunities for inter-generational social interaction.  Senior citizens can allow neighbors to aid in gardening on their lot, providing the opportunity for neighbors to interact socially and potentially for residents to teach neighborhood kids and families how to garden. If residents are unable or uninterested in gardening themselves, they can allow neighbors to garden their raised beds, while retaining some of the produce for themselves and/or sharing in the profits of the sale of their harvests, thereby benefiting both

parties economically and socially. At the community scale, neighborhoods can become agriculturally self-sustaining by allowing some of these gardens to be public or for the produce to be shared. Each lot can generate enough vegetables to feed 13 people throughout the harvest season and enough fruit for 8 people. Individual lots can produce a specific set of fruits and vegetables so the community as a whole has a wider array of local food types, as well as a surplus that can be sold for profit, positively contributing to the community’s social and economic well-being. Thus, this solution helps individuals understand the myriad of benefits of living closely tied to one’s contextual environment and fosters an embedded sense of community within the neighborhood while minimizing occupant energy use and reducing living costs through food production for personal consumption and profit, energy and water conservation.


Cosanti - Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri was born in Turin, Italy.  He was awarded his "laurea" (PhD degree with highest honors) in architecture from the Politecnico di Torino in 1946. He visited the United States in 1947 and spent a year and a half in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona, and at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. During this time, he gained international recognition for a bridge design displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.

Soleri returned to Italy in 1950 where he was commissioned to build a large ceramics factory, "Ceramica Artistica Solimene" in Vietri on the Amalfi coast. The ceramics industry processes he became familiar with during its construction led to his award-winning designs and production of ceramic and bronze windbells and siltcast architectural structures. For over 30 years, proceeds from sales of the windbells have provided funds for construction to test his theoretical work.

In 1956 he settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his late wife, Colly, and their two daughters. Dr. and Mrs. Soleri made a life-long commitment to research and experimentation in urban planning, establishing the Cosanti Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation. Soleri's philosophy and works have been strongly influenced by the Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.


The Cosanti Foundation's major project is Arcosanti, a community planned for 5,000 people, designed by Soleri; Arcosanti has been in construction since 1970. Located near Cordes Junction, about 70 miles north of Phoenix and visible from Interstate I-17 in central Arizona, the project intends to provide a model demonstrating Soleri's concept of "Arcology", architecture coherent with ecology. Arcology is envisioned by Soleri as a hyperdense city, designed to maximize human interaction; it should maximize access to shared, cost-effective infrastructural services, conserve water and reduce sewage; minimize the use of energy, raw materials and land; reduce waste and environmental pollution; and allow interaction with the surrounding natural environment. Arcosanti is a prototype of a desert arcology. Soleri's other arcology designs envisioned sites such as the ocean (Nova Noah), et al (see: Arcology: City in the Image of Man).

Since 1970, well over 6000 people have participated in Arcosanti's construction. Their international affiliation group is called the Arcosanti Alumni Network. As of 2010, construction is underway to complete Arcosanti's Greenhouse Apron.

Chapel Du Notre Dame du Haut, Le Corbusier, Ronchamp, France, 1954

The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, designed by Le Corbusier, is located in Ronchamp. The Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut, a shrine for the Catholic Church at Ronchamp was built for a reformist Church looking to continue its relevancy. Warning against decadence, reformers within the Church looked to renew its spirit by embracing modern art and architecture as representative concepts. Father Couturier, who would also sponsor Le Corbusier for the La Tourette commission, steered the unorthodox project to completion in 1954.

This work, like several others in Le Corbusier’s late oeuvre, departs from his principles of standardization and the machine aesthetic outlined in Vers une architecture. It is interesting to note though, that even in this project, the structural design of the roof was inspired by the engineering of airfoils.

The chapel is clearly a site-specific response. By Le Corbusier’s own admission, it was the site that provided an irresistible genius loci for the response, with the horizon visible on all four sides of the hill and its historical legacy for centuries as a place of worship.

This historical legacy weaved in different layers into the terrain — from the Romans and sun-worshippers before them, to a cult of the Virgin in the Middle Ages, right through to the modern church and the fight against the German occupation. Le Corbusier also sensed a sacral relationship of the hill with its surroundings, the Jura mountains in the distance and the hill itself, dominating the landscape.

The nature of the site would result in an architectural ensemble that has much similarity with the Acropolis, starting from the ascent at the bottom of the hill to architectural and landscape events along the way, before finally terminating at the sanctum itself, the chapel.

The building itself is a comparatively small structure enclosed by thick walls, with the upturned roof supported on columns
embedded within the walls. In the interior, the spaces left between the wall and roof, as well as asymmetric light from the wall openings serve to further reinforce the sacral nature of the space and buttress the relationship of the building with its surroundings.

Bruce Goff, Ruth Ford House, 1949, Aurora, Illinois
Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Adah Robisnon and Bruce Goff, 1929, Tulsa,OK
Bruce Goff, Bavinger House, Norman, OK, 1950
Bruce Goff, Sketch for Bavinger House, Norman, OK, 1950

Bruce Alonzo Goff 1904 – 1982

Goff is unique in the realms of Organic Architectute for his eclectic and often fantastical designs for houses and other buildings. Born in Alton, Kansas, Goff apprenticed at the age of twelve with Rush, Endacott and Rush of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Goff became a partner with the firm in 1930. He is credited, along with his high-school art teacher Adah Robinson, with the design of Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States.

After stints in Chicago and Berkeley, Goff accepted a teaching position with the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma in 1942 and by 1943, he was chairman of the school. This was his most productive period. In his private practice, Goff built an impressive number of residences in the American Midwest, developing his singular style of organic architecture that was client- and site-specific.

Goff's accumulated design portfolio of 500 projects demonstrates early adeptness in design inspired by his mentors and gurus that included Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright until he solidly found his own voice firmly rooted in the philosophy of Organic Architecture. Finding inspiration in sources as varied as Antoni Gaudi, Balinese music, Claude Debussy, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, and seashells, Goff's later work had no precedent and he has few heirs other than his former assistant, New Mexico architect Bart Prince, and former student, Herb Greene. Goff's idiosyncratic floorplans, attention to spatial effect, and use of

recycled and/or unconventional materials such as gilded zebrawood, cellophane strips, cake pans, glass cullet, Quonset Hut ribs, ashtrays, and white turkey feathers, challenge conventional distinctions between order and disorder and found and cultivated building materials.

Desert View Watchtower, 1932
Lookout Studio, 1914
Hermits Rest, 1914
Hopi House, 1905

Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (1869 – 1958)

In the years following the American Civil War, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter traveled with her family throughout the country and spent considerable time in Minnesota, Colorado and Texas.  Mary Colter attended the California School of Design in San Francisco and was hired as an Interior Designer by the Fred Harvey Company in 1901 and By 1910 she was a practicing architect.  Over the next 30 years, she came to love and know The American Southwest with an intimate appreciation and a cultural design sensitivity. She applied this perspective to the design of a series of hotels and lodges, most notably, structures along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Mary Colter designed Hopi House in 1905, the observatory Lookout Studio in 1914 and Hermit’s Rest in 1914, The Desert View Watchtower in 1932 along with the Bright Angel Lodge. Her work was deeply rooted in archeology and designed places imbued with historical significance. She understood the importance of using consultants to achieve an integrity of cultural design and not mere nostalgic surface washing. To this end, she employed the assistance of Hopi tribe members who lent another element of spatial design in the spiritual and natural realm.  Her success with local, natural materials became a benchmark for future landmark

architecture and remains a beacon for Organic Architects world-wide.

With the development, marketing and success of the Santa Fe Railroad, the visitation to the grand canyon became a popular tourist destination and one of the most visited camps was the Hermit Camp, where mule trip and hikers on foot would lodge within the canyon.

With the  increasing  level of tourism, more facilities were needed along the rim where other services and hospitality needs were taking root. The architect Mary Jane Colter was tasked with developing a suitable comfort station at the trailhead. The result was Hermit's Rest, completed in 1914.

She developed Hermits rest s a unique inspiration without any visual historical nostalgia, yet drew upon real anecdote for guidance.  Colter's referential inspiration was based on the legend of Louis Boucher, a "hermit" for which Hermit Gorge is named. Boucher is thought to have spent months if not years in a home-made shelter formed

by gathering and laying up stones within his immediate local.  He used the canyon as a mining base camp. Colter simply imagined life within this shelter as an almost ideal physical space from which to commune with nature and take in natural uniqueness of the landscape. Her lodge became a place that could evoke this sensibility.

The shell appears as a random composition of rocks tucked into a land form that was also fashioned by Colter to create a symbiosis  of site and structure.